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The Lostro building at sunset, 2024.

Lostro building to become a boutique hotel, honors local history

A boutique hotel inspired by the South Court Street building’s history brings new life to one of the largest empty commercial spaces in Athens that has been in disrepair since 2019.

A Boutique Hotel

The Lostro building on the corner of South Court and West Union streets has been the site of many Athens staples since the early 20th century. After being untouched since 2019, the Athens Masonic Temple Company sold the building to Indus Hotels, a Columbus-based development company.

Under the name “Lostro Ventures, LLC,” Indus Hotels bought the building for $1.55 million in October 2023, according to an Athens County real estate transfer record documented by the Southeast Ohio History Center. 

In a document highlighting investments from the Ohio Department of Development’s Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program, the company plans to create an upscale boutique hotel. 

The project will create 22 extended-stay rooms on the top two floors of the four-story building. Two casual-style restaurants on the ground floor and a retail store in the basement are projected to create approximately 75 jobs on-site and around 67 jobs during the construction phase.

The project will cost a little less than $11 million with $1 million in tax credits through state funding designated under the state program. Previously, the company also utilized state funding under the Brownfield Remediation Program to clean the building before construction. The Brownfield Program grants funding to clean hazardous materials from commercial properties. 

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said the relationship between Kozar with Indus Hotels and Athens has been collaborative and positive so far. 

“The minute he sat there and talked about the hotel, it was like, it’d be brilliant,” Patterson said. 

Indus Hotels did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Patterson said with the location and other local hotel businesses, the demand will be high and Kozar may have chosen the location knowing the space will be occupied often. The structure will be extended-stay residences which may differ from the typical overnight experience.

“It’ll have retail, the restaurants on the first floor, but it won’t necessarily have a front desk or a concierge,” Patterson said. “It’ll be more like a short-term rental platform.”

Historic Preservation and Inspiration

The Lostro building also falls in a historical preservation district, Athens Director of Code Enforcement David Riggs said. Before any work was done on the building, Indus Hotels was required to go to the Historical Preservation Board to meet preservation requirements, Riggs said.

“For instance, windows and stuff were all reviewed and approved by the Historical Preservation Board,” Riggs said.

City Council Historical Preservation Commission Member Richard Vedder said there were many considerations the commission looked at regarding the preservation of The Lostro building. 

Vedder said the commission’s primary concern was the exterior of the building and whether proposed modifications would violate historical tradition or architecture. 

“It’s not dramatically changing, there are a few windows that had to be redone,” Vedder said. “They were very careful to follow recommended procedures.”

Vedder said the commission generally doesn’t like vinyl windows in old buildings or other modern-looking materials. He said Indus Hotels was cooperative with this request and has followed procedure. 

The Athens Masonic Temple Company owned the building for years, only selling it late last year.

“They owned it almost an entire period but they rented it out for as long as I can remember for decades, mainly as a bookstore,” Vedder said.

Indus Hotels’ “Lostro” theme for the boutique hotel stems from the Lostro Automotive Company. The company built the structure in 1914 after businessman John R. Lostro had great success in the coal industry, moving into the automobile industry shortly after.

The building was a large project for the region, slated to make Athens the center of the automobile business in Southeast Ohio. In the 1910s, the building had a car showroom on the first floor and a repair shop on the second floor. Fulwilders was also in the basement and served as a leading restaurant. 

The Athens Masons started meeting on the third floor in 1922 before owning the building. Throughout the century, the building housed various other restaurants and businesses. 

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The Lostro building during its automotive era, the early 1900s. Photo from the Southeast Ohio History Center.

The Varsity Inn came around 1923, another restaurant that commonly hosted Greek life events for Ohio University. Quick’s Drug Store and Logan’s Bookstore also served the needs of students, eventually turning into Follett’s Bookstore, which closed in 2019.

“Kids went down in the basement to buy their books for classes, textbooks,” Vedder said. “(It also sold) sweaters, sweatshirts, school paraphernalia, things they sell at college bookstores a lot today.”

The building is one of the largest local commercial buildings that stands empty, Vedder said. Although the prospect of a new business is positive for the demand of local hotels, Vedder questioned how it may impact the rival hotels in the area.

“The amount of money involved must be tremendous,” Vedder said. “For 22 hotel rooms, I’m starting to guess they will be a very high price.”

Vedder said locally, the closest resemblance to a hotel of this nature is the Athens Central Hotel at 88 E. State St.

“Those rooms are high priced, they’re very nice and I think this is going to be on that same model: boutique hotel,” Vedder said. “Expensive, right at the center of things, you can’t get more center in Athens.” 

Vedder said the demand for this new boutique-style accommodation will probably come into play most with guests coming to Athens for events like football games or graduations. 

“This is the trend in the hotel business, small, intimate, specialized hotels rather than big monstrous places,” Vedder said. “In effect, in the minor sense, this place is going in competition with the OU Inn.”

Parking and Construction

Patterson said the city has talked with Kozar about collaborating on a parking solution because city regulations require a certain number of parking spaces depending on how many guests are staying in the building.

The city offered Kozar discounted rate parking vouchers for guests staying at The Lostro. Kozar also proposed a valet system to park the guest’s cars in the nearby city parking garage on East Washington Street. Patterson said Kozar did not think the vouchers were necessary, so guests would likely park in the parking garage.

The location of the building will also make construction a strategic task, with the surrounding street parking to be blocked off at times. 

It is still being determined how construction staging will take place on Court Street, but on West Union, Patterson said it might make the most sense to block off where the curb bumps out.

“Just take the parking offline and allow for trucks to come in and bring in the materials they need,” Patterson said. 

Aside from parking and construction, The Lostro has run into development issues with an underground unused concrete vault.

Located underneath the sidewalk outside The Lostro building, the vault was primarily used during the days of The Lostro Automobile Company to move cars from the showroom to other levels of the building and is similar to an elevator.

Riggs said the utility vault is starting to fail structurally. The plan is to remove the sidewalk and fill in the vault during the summer while most students are gone to minimize disruption.

“They had a tunnel outside of the building underneath the sidewalk to provide utility access into the building,” Riggs said. “They would get materials down to the lower level through an elevator system, but it hasn’t been used in years.” 

In addition to other areas of collaboration and grant funding from the state, Riggs said the city also plans to waive some capacity fees for the project.

“If you go in as a new business, that increases the demand on our water and sewer services,” Riggs said. “So we have capacity fees for those to account for that.”


The Ohio Department of Development deputy chief of media relations, Mason Waldvogel, said tax credits are given to projects that influence economic and social well-being and produce long-term change for the site and local area.

In an application submitted to the Department of Development, Indus Hotels said it has a goal to redevelop the building into uses that are compatible with the Athens uptown market.

“Given the strong University presence and the demographics for the uptown Athens area, we feel we can deliver a project the community will benefit for years to come,” the application said. 

The Athens County Economic Development Council executive director, Mollie Fitzgerald, said the company approached the City of Athens around two years ago regarding the project, starting with the Brownfield cleanup.

“I will say they’ve done a great job of utilizing all sorts of programs and any funding that’s available to them,” Fitzgerald said.

From an economic development standpoint, Fitzgerald said they are excited Indus Hotels and company Vice President David Kozar has taken on The Lostro project, which as a historical building can be expensive to redevelop. 

“We’re just really glad that they took a stab at it and have been putting together the capital stack and all the pieces to make it a reality,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not been an easy process by any means.” 

Fitzgerald said the Economic Development Council and Athens Port Authority have been assisting in any way they can to see the project to the finish line and use the project to benefit the city through taxes.

“Through this project, we can further help expand our tax base by increasing the property taxes that the property will generate and of course the sales and income tax from the businesses that will be going in there,” Fitzgerald said. 

Construction is set to begin over the summer, marking a fresh start for the prominent Athens building that has housed generations of tradition and history.


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